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Crisis deepens: bed occupancy rates high and hospital misses 'serious incidents' targets

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: December 04, 2012

By ADRIAN JENKINS and JOSH TAYLOR

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BOSSES at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital have drafted in NHS troubleshooters in a bid to ease intense pressure on services.

They have asked the Emergency Care Intensive Support Team to scrutinise A&E admissions to see if it can improve performance.

The request emerged as the hospital admitted its bed occupancy rate was averaging more than 90 per cent — well above the 85 per cent which allows hospitals to cope with surges in demand.

It also came to light as new figures showed serious incidents such as falls and unexpected deaths had more than doubled — despite a pledge earlier in the year to halve them.

Evidence of the continuing pressure on Queen’s moved under the spotlight once more as Dr Foster, the private healthcare analysts, said whenever hospitals were too busy patient care suffered as systems began to crumble.

Dr Foster co-founder Roger Taylor said: “When that happens, patients are put in whatever bed can be found, and mistakes are more likely to happen.”

Hospital was aiming to halve ‘serious incidents’. They’ve more than doubled

SERIOUS incidents including falls and unexpected deaths have more than doubled at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital.

There were 33 pressure ulcers, 15 slips, trips and falls, four unexpected patient deaths and four missed pregnancy screenings at the hospital between April and October.

There were 58 serious incidents during this time, up more than 100 per cent from the 25 recorded during the same period last year.

The rise came despite a pledge by the hospital earlier this year to HALVE serious incidents, which can include injuries on wards and clinical blunders.

A report, seen by the Mail, spells out what hospital bosses plan to do to meet their target of cutting serious incidents.

Of the 33 recorded pressure ulcers, 21 were described as avoidable. The report said: “An equipment library has been established which will ensure that all pressure relieving equipment is stored centrally and is available in a timely fashion.”

The hospital also said it would try to bring down the number of falls suffered by patients by purchasing more sensors and specialist beds. It has also set up a dedicated group to monitor patients most at risk of falls.

The report added: “The trust has failed to reach its target of reducing serious incidents by 50 per cent.”

It said hospital staff were now better at reporting serious incidents thanks to an internet reporting system, investigations into serious incidents were ‘led and owned by the clinical team and are carried out in a timely fashion’, and ward nurse champions had been introduced to help meet the target of a 50 per cent cut.

The 25 serious incidents reported between April and October last year included pressure ulcers, slips, trip and falls and baby deaths on maternity wards.

Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Queen’s and two community hospitals in Lichfield and Tamworth, also revealed it was set to breach its clostridium difficile (C-diff) levels for this year.

The trust said its acceptable limit was no more than two cases per month, although it expects to breach this target by four by the end of March next year.

The trust said deep cleaning of three wards that had suffered outbreaks this year and the use of more disposable equipment would help meet its overall target of cutting C-diff rates by 30 per cent.

Extra help is called in as bed occupancy rate reaches 90%

BELEAGUERED bosses at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital have drafted in NHS troubleshooters in a bid to find ways to ease the pressure on services.

Bosses have asked the Emergency Care Intensive Support Team (ECIST) to scrutinise A&E admissions to see if it can improve performance.

Their move emerged as Queen’s admitted its bed occupancy rate was averaging more than 90 per cent — well above the 85 per cent which allows hospitals to cope with surges in demand.

Mark Powell, interim director of operations at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Queen’s, said: “It concerns all of us.

“It gives us less time to discharge patients in a way that we would want to and puts on extra pressure because it gives us less flexibility with our bed base.

“The greater the occupancy, the less flexibility we have in terms of getting patients through the hospital in a timely way.

“It’s still a challenge on a day-to-day basis but we are doing what we can to manage.”

Queen’s is feeling the pressure due to an increase in emergency admissions and frail elderly patients.

In a bid to cope, bosses have increased capacity by temporarily opening an additional 12 beds on its Geoffrey Hodges wing.

They are also opening another eight beds on the main hospital site to cater for frail elderly patients.

The directors have also enlisted the support of ECIST to examine emergency admissions ‘to ascertain how the trust can improve its patient flows through the hospital’.

A formal report detailing recommendations is due to be handed to the trust this week.

In a report to fellow directors, Mr Powell said the trust was also completing an analysis of activity patterns, age profiles of admitted patients, the extent of their needs and their relationship with ‘current operational challenges’.

He said the analysis would underpin ECIST’s recommendations.

The hospital chief said directors had also joined forces with commissioners and social services teams to implement a plan to tackle issues delaying patient discharge.

Hours before Queen’s bed occupancy rate emerged, Dr Foster, the respected private healthcare analysts, said hospitals were too full for long periods of the year, creating a potentially dangerous environment for patients.

In a report, it said when hospitals were too busy patient care suffered because systems began to disintegrate.

Dr Foster co-founder Roger Taylor said: “When that happens, patients are put in whatever bed can be found, orderly management and discharge can become strained, infections are harder to control and mistakes are more likely to happen.”

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  • Burton Mail  |  January 08 2013, 2:12PM

    The figure of 85% average bed occupancy quoted in your article represents a serious misunderstanding regarding optimum bed occupancy. If you look at the article 'Bed occupancy demystified' on my website www(dot)hcaf(dot)biz the seriousness of the situation at Burton hospitals will come into focus.

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